Thanksgiving’s coming, and with it comes visions of a bountiful feast, a loving group of family or friends to share it with, and the converging scents of good food and a blazing fire in the hearth on a crisp November day. The reality, of course, may play out more like this: Your dishwasher just went on the fritz. You’re working overtime and don’t even have time to food shop, never mind bake those Linzer tarts that everyone’s expecting. Your son is coming home from college, but he hasn’t told Dad about the piercings OR the tattoo. Your kids cannot be in a room together without fighting. And nobody wants to help!
Whatever our burdens, large or small, it can seem impossible to shake the baggage and allow ourselves the simple gift of appreciating what we have. Yet, is it an overstatement to say that we still dream of the perfect Thanksgiving? The simple truth is, our appreciation will not be found in a day that goes perfectly. (Spoiler: That day does not exist!) But if we let it, our appreciation will be found in the moments that dot our imperfect day. The appreciation in the moment when, amongst the bickering and burnt fingers, someone you love looks across the room at you with knowing eyes filled with amusement and empathy. The moment when some simple pleasure catches your attention—a scent, a sight, a flavor. The moment when you take a deep breath and say, Life isn’t perfect, but man, these potatoes are. And I’m here to enjoy it. Pass the sour cream, please.
A healthy “thanksgiving” mentality transcends the holiday. Thanksgiving is a lesson for all days. No day will ever be a perfect 10, unless your perspective is brilliantly optimistic (and in which case you can stop reading). You stub your toe, someone cuts you off; wait, who wrote on my couch? Our days are all messy patchworks dotted with both bad and good. The big question is, what will you do with them? Are you going to grab onto the bad and toss it in the virtual sack that weighs you down as you carry it around with you? Or are you going to enlist your sense of humor and your sense of appreciation to deflect the negativity as best you can?
Same goes for the positive: Are you going to go-go-go all day long, checking off your 47 to-do list items, without stopping to look around? Or are you going to pace yourself and give yourself the chance to be alert for good moments—life moments—whenever they might occur?
This month, reframe your mind to appreciate the good in your life:
- Take pause. Stop each evening and consider three things that were good about your day. If you can’t think of three, start with one. Think about what made that good moment special, and who or what was responsible for it happening (and thank them if you can—showing gratitude and paying it forward is an entire feel-good series of its own).
- Put it down. Make a promise to yourself that you will detox from phone-gazing, especially while spending time with others. When you’re alone, take time to absorb the sensory experiences around you. What are they? Does anything stir your emotions? Train yourself to stop and say, “That was a beautiful bird” or “That smell reminds me of my grandma’s cooking!” I promise, you won’t come up empty-handed—you will find things to marvel over.
- Share the moment. Got a partner, sister, cousin, or friend you can talk with when things get dicey? Know who you can share things with, and turn to them for emotional reinforcements. When things get crazy on your inevitably imperfect Thanksgiving day, it can help boost your perspective to know that you have someone to laugh with about it all. And isn’t knowing that, in its own way, kind of perfect?